The Cuban economy’s roadmap

The news that the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party had approved the documents that have been discussed throughout the country for almost a year is undoubtedly very good news. More than a million persons have debated those documents, which is also magnificent news.

The documents approved are “the Conceptualization of Socialist Development of the Cuban Economic and Social Model; the bases of the National Plan for Economic and Social Development up to 2030: Vision of the Nation, Strategic Cores and Sectors; and new modifications to the Party and Revolution’s Economic and Social Policy Guidelines.” The three have been the center of a great effort at interpreting our reality and above all of exercising the projection of the future of the country we want.

It is probable – from my point of view, desirable –  that those documents won’t get to meet 100 percent of the Cuban population’s expectations and also that they won’t get to meet 100 percent of the expectations of all Cubans. But it is also true that it is an unquestionable advantage to have today a group of documents of reference for what we want to do and above all that those documents have been the result of a collective action of creation from many spheres, a collective action of creation not exempt of profound discussions and discrepancies and sustained on the creative effort from different angles of sciences, not just social and economic sciences.

This process took many years of work, it took from previous experience, and it learned from it and is its own negation in the dialectical sense of the term. I don’t know how many countries in the world have done something similar. Not on “what” (drawing out a vision and outlining a wished-for future) since there are many experiences in this, yes in “how,” according to the way in which they were achieved.

From my perspective their first contribution to the construction of that new country we want lies in how they were able to be built, it lies in that collective effort that I tried to describe above.

Always biased by my profession of economist, I extract four issues that for me are the pillars of those documents and which must become on what the present and future process of transformation must be based. They are: the concept of vision, the concept of the fundamental means of production, the definition of the forms of ownership that will typify our socialist economic model and the definition of the strategic development cores.

The definition of a vision of country as a sovereign, independent, socialist, democratic, prosperous and sustainable country. On more than one occasion and from these pages I have referred to that vision. I believe it is the first filter through which everything has to go through. It is clear that before it will be necessary to continue advancing in the consensuses about what being a sovereign country and how to guarantee this means these days. What an independent country is at this moment in time, not just politically – about which I believe it is much clearer – but also in what being economically independent means today, especially if we go by our long history of economic dependence.

The same goes for the socialism we want to build. I don’t think any document, no matter how complete, exhausts the limits of a live exercise of sociopolitical creation for which there are no preconceived recipes or prefabricated models. That’s why I believe that the document on conceptualization must be taken as the basis for a continuous, enriching discussion and not be turned into a “straightjacket” for our reality, so changing day after day.

The same could be said about democracy, the one we are still building and that every day we discover has to be recreated and reinterpreted, that it must be for the country we have today and serve the purposes and aspirations of all its citizens, but that must also be aware of the world experience with respect to this.

Much would have to be said about prosperity. What does it mean to be prosperous in Cuba? Does a Cuban citizen from Miramar have the same perception of prosperity as a Cuban citizen from Cacocún? Does a Cuban black have the same perception of prosperity as a Cuban white? For Cuba – or better, for the Cuban government – the current one we have and the one we will have, this is one of the most difficult exercises.

A short time ago Pedro Monreal, on his blog, called our attention about a group of indicators that we should always have present. One of them is the Human Development Index. It is very well-known by many that Cuba is among the countries with high development if we go by that indicator that is based on objective data on the country’s performance. But prosperity also has a subjective dimension, a sort of mixture of perception and expectations. It is being able to meet those expectations what makes people feel they are making progress, thus the great challenge it represents. If being prosperous only has to do with reaching certain level of Per Capita National Income, then everything would be easier, we grow and that’s it, but growing doesn’t guarantee that people feel prosperous. However, one must continue growing.

In terms of sustainability in its different dimensions we could write hundreds of pages, complete sheets of paper could be filled just with the concerns associated to sustainability. When we pass the “pending subject” of economy, socialism can be sustainable. When our levels of productivity are close or comparable to the levels of productivity of the international mean, our socialism will be sustainable. When the income our workers have is not so far away from the one of its peers of other countries, socialism will be sustainable. When our science, innovation and development integrate in a “natural” way with the productive and services processes, socialism will be sustainable. When equity is based on individual contribution and each one’s social contribution, socialism will be sustainable. If we achieve that each citizen perceives or feels they can meet their expectations of prosperity with and based on work, socialism will be sustainable. It is an enormous challenge, but it must not stop being one of our goals.

Another two defined pillars remain in these documents to which I have also referred on previous occasions: a more realistic definition of what the fundamental means of production are, in my opinion something that was becoming indispensable and that is assumed in the document like those that have a strategic role in economic and social development, guarantee the vitality and the sustainability of the country and national security.

From my perspective that concept helps us to clear the way and to make indispensable decisions today to be able to unburden the State of activities that weigh down its performance, and above all the efficacious allotment of resources.

In terms of the forms of ownership and the recognition of private property as one of them, functionally inserted in our economic model, thousands of pages could also be written just on the history of this discussion in Cuba based on the economic thinking. I will only reiterate what I have said on other occasions: our history, all the attempts of these more than 50 years of trying to forbid it, persecute it, not recognize it, obstruct it…had failed results. I am of the opinion that functionally integrating it to our aims and to regulate it adequately will give better results.

The last of these pillars of the approved documents is the definition of a group of strategic cores to achieve the development that must constitute the pillars that move all the sectors of our economy that serve as the basis for the plan’s projection. I must have more space and time to refer to them, from my perspective they must serve as a filter for the decision makers to allot resources to those sectors and enterprises that best satisfy those cores. That’s why it is important to understand in its entire dimension the affirmation of Vice President Marino Murillo that they must be understood as something dynamic, changing, that will be constantly enriched with the very changes taking place in Cuba.

My aspiration is that those documents become the bases of a permanent discussion and that they are not turned into a sort of “Bible” that contains everything that is correct, and that what it does not contain is not correct.

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